Classroom Verbal Behavior and Learning Opportunities in Selected Secondary School EFL Classroom

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Addis Ababa Universiy


This is study was designed to describe and ex pl ain the nature of the verbal behavior used in English classes in se lected secondary schools. The need for describing and explaining the nature of the verbal behav ior used in a lesson arose from the need to get insight into the nature of the potential learning opportunities that can be created by the verbal beha viors used during a lesson. The subj ects of the study were grade 9 Engli sh teachers and the ir students. Two teachers who had a BA level qualification in Engli sh teaching were selected from two government senior secondary schools in Addis Ababa. Both teachers were teaching the new English textbook (English for Ethiopia) when the data was collected. The data was collec ted in the same academic year (1997/98) in which the new textbook was introduced to grade 9. Two groups of students ('strong' and ' weak ') were selected from the two teachers' classes to write diaries on their English lessons for three weeks. Classifyin g students into 'strong' and 'weak' group was made by the teachers themselves on the bas is of thei r perceptions of the extent of the students' participation in English classes. Lesson transcript data was the core data used in the study. Grammar and vocabulary lessons taught by the teachers were audio-taped. The audio-taped lessons were transcribed, analysed and interpreted. Supplementary data were also obtained from class room observation, teacher interviews and student diari es. The find ings of the study indicate that the classroom discourse moves, structu.ring, soliciting, responding and reacting are in place as was noted by the previous studies made in other contexts. Except for the responding move, the other three moves are restricted to the teachers. Further analysis of the transcript data shows that teacher soliciting behavior is the recurrent verbal behavior used in both lesson types whi le the investigation of the nature of the solic its indicates that the solicits set the students tasks that do not require extended interactive work. This has limited the students' verbal behavior to single words, phrases, and single/simple sentences. The teachers' informing behavior, their explanation behavior in particular, has been noted to have the potential to leave the students' mind in confusion. In addition, the study has shown the teachers' feedback behavior to be tending to have a prescriptive nature. This means that they emphasize what ought to be said more than what the students could say to communicate using the target language they are learning. Relevant conclusions were drawn from the findings of the study. Implications for future study were also suggested.



Learning Opportunities